After a year away from the game, University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds hockey forward Mike Thomas is making a comeback.
Thomas spent 25 games with the V-Reds during the 2013-14 season, but he studied firefighting at Holland College in Charlottetown, P.E.I. last year and only played half of a year of senior hockey while at it.
“I missed the game,” he said. “I realized I missed the competitive spirit that playing for UNB had to offer, but I’m happy to be back and focused on winning a championship with a great group of guys.”
Thomas said firefighting career opportunities seem to be in short supply, which made him want to finish his kinesiology degree at UNB.
“Finishing a degree is never a bad thing, where it leads to many other opportunities”, he said.
Thomas is now focusing on the books, though he often practices with the V-Reds. He’ll be back on the roster after Christmas break.
A New Maryland native, Thomas said returning to his roots makes his hockey comeback extra special.
“My brother goes to UNB as well,” he said. “Last time I played for UNB, it was nice always having family around.”
Thomas played five seasons for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, recording 83 points and 470 penalty minutes in 288 games.
On top of that, the six-foot-one, 204-pound left winger suited up for 55 playoff games in which he scored 20 points and was assessed 43 penalty minutes.
“We weren’t that great when I started out at 16 in Saint John,” said Thomas. “By the time I was 20, we won a Memorial Cup.”
Thomas went on to play for the Springfield Falcons and Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League, which is the National Hockey League’s minor affiliate.
He also was a member of the Chicago Express and Toledo Walleye of the East Coast Hockey League before joining UNB.
V-Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall said in a statement on the team’s website that Thomas is a proven winner who will make UNB a more physical team.
“He is very popular in the community and will be a key addition for the second half,” said MacDougall.
Thomas will be added to the V-Reds roster after the holiday break, once he has completed academic requirements.
Aside from several new players since the last time Thomas was a V-Red, he said the current team has a different feel to it.
“A lot of new guys came in last year, and you can tell by how close they came last year [to a national title] that they’re determined this year to be better than coming so close only to fall short,” he said.
However, Thomas is familiar with many of his new UNB teammates. He played with and against a lot of them in QMJHL.
“I’m happy to be back with this group,” he said. “It’s great to be back. It’s a good group to be part of.”
Thomas has three years left of CIS eligibility. After that, he hopes to study education.
“But you never know what the future might hold.”